The Phoenix Song

The Phoenix Song

by Jonathan Fok


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462056460
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/03/2011
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.82(d)

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By Jonathan Fok

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Jonathan Fok
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-5646-0

Chapter One


Ryan Constave's heart was pounding in his head. His vision had long since started to tunnel so that all he could clearly see was directly in front of him. His backpack bounced around madly on his back and with each pounding footstep, Ryan could feel the nylon strap cutting into his shoulder.

The street flew by as Ryan continued to push forward as fast as his thin frame would allow. Somewhere behind him, Ryan could hear shouting and although some part of him wanted to turn around to see what kind of a lead he had on his pursuers he had seen enough movies to know that the moment he turned his head to look he would trip and fall. Instead, his mind raced as he tried to determine when everything went wrong.

The day had started as most Tuesday mornings did, with his alarm clock screaming at his tardiness. As with most fifteen year olds concerned about their popularity, Ryan had carefully picked out an outfit for the day, something that he believed was hip and cool. Now as he glanced down at his blue t-shirt with an emblem of a metallic dragon pressed into the front, Ryan was sure his definition of cutting edge fashion did not exactly line up with today's popular culture. Blood from the cut lip he had incurred after a nasty spill earlier speckled the emblem, ruining his favorite shirt.

Should not have worn my Warcraft jacket Ryan thought to himself as he cursed himself with every sprinting step. With his social status at school already on the low end, Ryan mentally kicked himself for making the rookie mistake of wearing something that people could so easily ridicule. To make matters worse he did not even own a computer and the jacket was a gift from a friend who had one to spare. Even in the digital age, he did not even own a cell phone with his father thinking that the radiation from the phone would cause him to grow a brain tumor. That alone made him the butt end of many Luddite jokes.

Taking a corner as quickly as he could, Ryan felt his feet slipping under the sudden change in direction. Just as he managed to regain his footing, he heard a thunderous roar of anger and a quick glance down the street revealed an angry duo storming towards him. Without missing a beat, Ryan continued to run hoping that his pursuers were not smart enough to attempt to cut him off.

Reaching back once again, Ryan's memories skipped forward to the second mistake he had made that day. It had happened during his forty-five minute hike to school. Ryan had walked to same route so many times he could have done the journey blindfolded and with the lack of anything scenic on the trip, he would not have missed much. With no cell phone or ipod to occupy his mind, Ryan had grabbed a fallen branch and begun to slash the air around him. In his mind, the trees around him had turned into towering monsters, their branches now hideous limbs that reached out to grab him. The cracks in the sidewalk became fissures, threatening to swallow him completely while his stick became a gleaming sword, ready to hack and slice through any demon that would confront him. So engrossed in his imaginary world, Ryan had nearly struck a trio of girls who were rounding a blind corner. While normally Ryan would brush off the incident and quickly escape, one of the girls he had almost struck was his childhood crush: Catherine Hardy. In a feeble attempt to redeem himself, Ryan remembered the completely unimpressed look on Catherine's face as he muttered something about swatting bugs before scampering away with his tail between his legs. While the incident was embarrassing enough, Ryan knew that either Catherine or her friends would report the incident to their friends. His humiliation would spread through the school like wildfire.

The shouting behind Ryan jolted him back to the present. His legs were screaming in agony and his breathing becoming increasing labored, Ryan was beginning to regret angering one of the track stars of his school. While Ryan was fast on his feet, his thin feeble frame was built for short bursts of speed and not marathons. Already he could feel him reaching his endurance limit. The track stars pursuing him however, were one of the town's fastest one-kilometer runners.

Mistake number four. Ryan thought to himself. Even his thoughts were starting to come out in ragged gasps. Barely avoiding a honking car as he sprinted across a residential street in an effort to elude his pursuers, Ryan began to cut through some backyards. The one advantage he did have was that he was intimately familiar with this neighborhood having spent many lazy summer days near here.

Vaulting over a shrub, Ryan's mind drifted off one last time as he recounted his third and what he was sure the most significant mistake of the day.

His sister Megan, a budding psychologist with no real knowledge in the field had diagnosed him with obsessive-compulsive disorder stemming with his overpowering timid nature and his black-and-white view of the ethics and morals. Seven years his elder, Ryan knew that his sister loved him but she was far too old to be a playmate. Although she tried to look out for him Ryan was convinced she had long forgotten what it was like to be a teenager in Junior High. Contrary to his sister's insistence, classmates and bullies did not respond well to assertive demands of 'stop it; I do not like you pushing'. All that did was fuel the fire.

With his inflexibility when it came to right and wrong, Ryan really only had one real friend. A former neighbor, Cory Schell had since moved across the city although he did remain a classmate. Sharing somewhat similar interests, particularly in the realm of fantasy and role-playing, Cory never had as much problems as Ryan did when it came to fitting in. In contrast to Ryan in every way, Cory was a stellar student, natural soccer player and a physically imposing figure with a heart of gold, Cory was well liked by everyone. While he could have easily shrugged off his previous relationship with Ryan after moving, Cory remained steadfast. Ryan was not sure whether Cory simply felt sorry for him or truly enjoyed his company but he did not question it for fear of ruining a good thing.

It was with Cory that Ryan had made his third mistake. The pair was walking casually through the halls after the final bell had rung. Cory, with a smile on his face and head held high while Ryan dragged his feet next to him, head down and looking pathetic.

"Cheer up man, it was just a pop quiz, you'll get it next time" Cory said with a firm pat on Ryan's shoulder. Ryan winced but otherwise showed no change in emotion.

"I got four states right" Ryan grumbled. "Out of the fifty States in the US I managed to name four of them. How sad is that?"

Cory shrugged as he waved at his fellow soccer teammates, "hey man you're Canadian. You don't have to know everything about the States right?"

Ryan gave Cory a pathetic look to which his friend responded with a heavy sigh.

"Look Ryan it's not the end of the world, relax! The quiz was worth like one percent of your total mark."

"You're right" Ryan muttered, "not like I was going for a hundred percent anyways right?"

Cory either pretended not to hear Ryan's self-deprecating comment or chose to ignore it as the pair continued down the hall.

"Hey Ryan where is your stick?"

Ryan looked up at his name but immediately averted his gaze from the teasing from his classmates. Several other students joined in on the teasing and laughing only to be quickly silenced by a stern glance from Cory.

"My life is ruined" Ryan mumbled as he felt his face flush from embarrassment.

"Don't worry about it buddy, they'll forget about it soon enough" Cory said dismissively before grinning and giving Ryan a playful shove. "So were you using a long sword or scimitar?"

Ryan finally broke into a smile as he looked up for the first time, "long sword of course. Heavier blade, longer reach, more power. Why go with any other kind of sword?"

Cory smiled and shook his head, "you'd be moving so slowly with that thing a person with a butter knife could get under your guard after you make a giant swing."

"But that's assuming that you can even get under my guard without getting your head lopped off.

"Yeah well ..." Cory began before he stopped mid-sentence. Ryan looked up at his friend and followed his gaze only to find his eyes settling on Catherine and her friends at the end of the hall. With a heavy sigh, Ryan looked down at his feet, once again feeling sorry about his life.

"Go ahead Cory" Ryan sighed.

"What are you talking about?" Cory asked as he broke his eyes away from Catherine.

"Go talk to her. You know you want to."

Cory gave Ryan a silly look before he grew serious, "no it's okay. I know you like her too."

Ryan snorted in disgust. "Yeah but you honestly think she'll go for a guy like me? Least you got a shot. Plus I think she likes you too."

Cory frowned at Ryan but eventually relented as Ryan stared him down. Watching as his friend jogged down the hall to talk to Catherine, Ryan leaned against the wall and sighed wishfully. If only he had the confidence to walk up to girls. If only he was taller and stronger. If only he were smarter. If only he was Cory.

The sound of papers falling to the ground snapped Ryan out of his daydream. With school out for the day, the classroom across the hall should be empty. Curious, Ryan crept forward and slowly pushed open the door. His mouth open in a silent 'oh' Ryan blinked in shock as he watched the schools track and field star Dylan Brooke and one of his friends rummaging through the teacher's desk.

"Man I can't find the answer sheet"

"Keep looking" Dylan hissed.

Shocked by what he was seeing, Ryan was about to turn and run to the principal's office only to accidently kick the wastebasket next to the door.

"Ryan" Dylan growled.

"Dude let's get out of here before someone else shows" Dylan's friend whispered. "This pipsqueak isn't going to talk anyways."

Ryan remained rooted in fear as he saw the rage in Dylan's eyes. While certainly not a bully in the conventional sense, Dylan was known for his temper.

"Y-you're cheating ..." Ryan stammered, "I-I am going to tell ..."

"You do not get it do you" Dylan said to his friend in a low growl as he began walking towards the door where Ryan stood. His heart racing, Ryan tried to back up but his feet responded sluggishly to his commands. "Ryan here is a rat. He's going to run off to the teacher."

"Then we gotta bolt!"

"No, we got to shut him up" Dylan responded.

Ryan had no idea what happened after that as he simply turned and took off. Sprinting past Cory and Catherine who both looked confused, Ryan threw open the school doors and took off across the field.

Ryan cursed himself with each step. Why did he have to keep sticking his nose into things that did not concern him? All he had to do was keep his mouth shut, close the door, and pretend nothing happened. Dylan was not even in his class so his cheating was not going to hurt his own grade anyways. Instead, his silly sense of honor was now going to get him killed.

Casting a nervous glance backwards, Ryan could see that his evasive maneuvers up to now were completely ineffective. Dylan had closed the gap and on the other side of the street, Ryan could see that one of Dylan's friends had positioned to cut him off.

His vision pulsing with each beat of his heart, Ryan could now only see a tiny sliver in front of him. Desperate and running out of breath, Ryan quickly sprinted through the tall grass of an abandoned lot, ignoring the scrapes of thorns as they tugged at his arms. Knowing that the lot backed into a dense park, Ryan finally broke free of the grass and weeds and dove into the tall hedges that lined the park border. Weaving his way through the branches of an overgrown hedge, Ryan could hear a roar of anger as his pursuers tried to make their way through the foliage. Sweat dripping into his eyes, Ryan felt the clawing branches tug at his backpack. Without hesitation, Ryan squirmed free of his bag and instinctively tossed it away. With gasping breath and the last ounce of his strength, Ryan clawed his way up a leafy poplar tree where he promptly collapsed. Having climbed the very same tree multiple times in his childhood, Ryan knew every branch of the trusted tree and knew exactly how high he need to get in order to disappear from view.

Doing his best to silence his wheezing breath, Ryan could hear Dylan crashing through the bushes below, swearing continuously. Somewhere in the distance, Ryan could hear Dylan's friend stomping about.

"Dylan over here! Found his bag!"

Ryan held his breath, straining to listen to Dylan's conversation over the pounding of his heart.

"Ryan you squirmy little punk! Show yourself!"

In his oxygen-deprived state, Ryan wondered who would willingly reveal their position knowing that a beating was imminent.

"He probably booked it across the park" Ryan hear Dylan's friend say. A heavy thump informed Ryan that his pack had been roughly hurled into the brush.

"Move then, he couldn't have gotten far."

Ryan listened to Dylan's footsteps disappear before finally allowing himself to inhale and exhale deeply. His entire body was screaming and his lungs were furious with him. After what seemed like an eternity, Ryan finally had the strength and will to slide off the tree. Dylan had tossed his backpack in a nearby rose bush and after the creative use of several long branches; Ryan managed to reclaim his pack.

His feet dragging along through ground as though they were encased in lead, Ryan trudged back through the abandoned lot and headed down the street. Walking past three more houses Ryan pushed open a rusted iron gate, flinching as the metal groaned in protest. Satisfied that the coast was indeed clear Ryan closed the gate behind him and slowly walked up the crumbling front walkway. While Ryan was not in a bad part town, it certainly was not an affluent neighborhood and the house was proof of that.

The front yard was overgrown with weeds and uneven grass while trees grew haphazardly in all different directions. Ryan could tell that the yard was once simple yet well kept but years of neglect had surrendered it to nature. The only lawn decoration that remained was a small crumbling statue of what used to be a dragon sitting lost amidst the tall grass and weeds. The house itself was modest although the blue paint was peeling and the wood on the front deck was beginning to rot and decay. The white trim of the house had long since faded and portions of the wooden roof tiles were in desperate need of replacing. Despite its appearance, Ryan could see that underneath the grimy facade that the home used to be a warm and welcoming place, a place where family and friends would gather for parties and elaborate dinners.

At least it was until time had claimed it.

Ignoring the groans of protests from the rotten front steps, Ryan walked to the front door and pounded heavily on the door. Catching a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the dirty window, Ryan quickly smoothed his hair and wiped his sweaty brow. His shirt was drenched with sweat and dirt while his forearms were scratched when he pushed his way through the brush. Pulling his jacket sleeves down to conceal his wounds, Ryan sighed, knowing there was little else he could do to fix his appearance. At least his lip had stopped bleeding.

"Just a second!" a gruff voice called from inside the house. Moments later Ryan heard the lock slide open and the heavy wooden door slide open a crack.

"Hi Aiden" Ryan said with a disarming smile as he stared at the piercing blue eye that poked through the door crack.

"Ryan!" was the response as a wizardly old man threw open the door. While his age now forced him to stand hunched, Aiden still stood an imposing six feet five inches, towering well over Ryan. His body wiry and strong, the wrinkles on Aiden masked the strength that lay beneath and Ryan was certain not even a group of five tough boys his age would be able to take on the old man and emerge victorious. Ryan wished to look as fit and strong as Aiden did when he grew old. He would even settle for looking like Aiden now if it would help him fit in at school.

"Ryan my boy! How are you?" Aiden said with a wide grin, displaying two rows of perfect teeth, as he quickly squeezed Ryan in a tight bear hug. Ryan felt his bones groan in protest but let Aiden have his moment.


Excerpted from THE PHOENIX SONG by Jonathan Fok Copyright © 2011 by Jonathan Fok. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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